(Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
The basketball community is mourning the loss of pioneer Earl Lloyd. The first Black player in NBA history died Thursday at the age of 86. Lloyd's alma mater, West Virginia State, confirmed his death with ESPN.
"The State family mourns the loss of a fellow Yellow Jacket and trailblazer who was a true champion both on and off of the basketball court," West Virginia State's president, Brian Hemphill, said in a statement to ESPN. "When Earl stepped out on the court on that fateful date in 1950, this remarkable man rightfully earned his place in the historic civil rights movement and, more important, he opened the door to equality in America."
Hemphill's right. On October 31, 1950, Lloyd became the first African-American player to appear in an NBA game, playing for the then-Washington Capitals. Five years later, the 6-foot-5 forward helped lead the Syracuse Nationals to a 1955 NBA championship win.
Lloyd averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds over nine seasons with Washington, Syracuse and Detroit from 1950-1960, only missing the 1951-52 season for serving in the U.S. Army. Lloyd was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2003.
Current NBA players took to their Twitter accounts early Friday morning to express condolences over the loss of Lloyd.
"RIP to Mr. Earl Lloyd you opened that ever so important door for all African-American athletes. Thank You!!!! Prayers up to your family," Memphis Grizzlies' veteran Vince Carter tweeted.
Added Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler: "Rest in Paradise Earl Lloyd!"
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